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Chapter 5


The processing of a fire mission involves three essential messages. These are the fire order, message to observer, and fire commands. These messages contain the necessary information to tactically engage the target, control the mission, and transmit technical fire direction to the howitzers.

Section I

Fire Order

This section implements STANAG 2934, Chapter 7, and QSTAG 221

In the fire order, the FDO specifies how the target will be attacked. This is tactical fire direction.

5-1. Overview

When the FDC receives a call for fire (CFF), the FDO must determine if and how the target will be attacked. This decision (part of tactical fire direction) may be made at the battalion or battery or platoon FDC. In battalion missions, the battalion FDO is responsible for issuing the fire order. In autonomous operations, the battery or platoon FDO is responsible for issuing the fire order. A fire order is the FDO's decision on what unit(s) will fire and how much and what type of ammunition will be fired. It is based on the FDO's analysis of the target.

5-2. Target Attack Considerations

In determining how, if at all, to attack a target, the FDO must consider several factors.

a. Location of the Target. The FDO must check the location relative to friendly forces, fire support coordinating measures, and zones of responsibility. Target location accuracy must also be considered. The range to the target will affect the choice of unit(s) to fire and charge. The terrain around the target may influence ammunition selection and type of trajectory. High intermediate crests may require selection of a lower charge or high-angle fire.

b. Nature of the Target. The size and type of target (for example, troops, vehicles, hard, soft, and so on) will affect the following:

  • Number of units to fire.
  • Type of sheaf.
  • Selection of ammunition.
  • Number of rounds in fire for effect.
  • Priority.
  • Whether surprise fire (for example, time on target [TOT]) is possible.

c. Ammunition Available. The FDO must consider the amount and type of ammunition available and the controlled supply rate (CSR).

d. Units Available. The number of units available will not only affect which units will be used, but also the type of attack. Sweep and/or zone fire or other techniques may be needed to cover large targets when enough units are not available.

e. Commander's Guidance or Standing Operating Procedures. Restrictions on ammunition, the operations order, and SOPs may govern the selection of units and ammunition, target priority, and method of attack.

f. Call for Fire. The FDO must consider the observer's request carefully since he is observing the target and talks directly to the maneuver commander. The observer's request should be honored when possible.

g. Munitions Effects. The FDO may use the joint munitions effectiveness manual (JMEM) to determine the type munition and volume of fire to be delivered. The FDO will rely most often on the graphical munitions effectiveness table (GMET), attack guidance matrixes, commander's guidance, and/or experience.

h. Availability of Corrections. The availability of corrections to firing data for nonstandard conditions is a guiding factor in the choice of charge and munitions, since it directly affects accuracy.

i. Enemy Target Acquisition Capability. Knowledge of the current enemy counterbattery radar and sound-ranging capabilities allows the FDO to attack the target in a manner most likely to avoid detection of the unit's location.

NOTE: For a more detailed discussion, refer to Appendix B.

5-3. Fire Order Elements

In autonomous operations, the battery or platoon FDO must issue a fire order. The fire order will address all information needed to conduct the mission. The fire order is issued in a prescribed sequence. It consists of 10 elements:

  • Unit to fire.
  • Adjusting element and/or method of fire (MOF) of adjusting element.
  • Basis for corrections.
  • Distribution.
  • Special instructions.
  • Method of FFE.
  • Projectile in effect (I/E).
  • Ammunition lot and charge in effect.
  • Fuze in effect.
  • Target number.

If not standardized by unit SOP, the elements in Figure 5-1 will be addressed in the fire order.

a. UNIT TO FIRE. Indicates the units to follow the mission and to fire for effect. Normally, BATTERY or PLATOON is announced as the unit to fire.

b. ADJUSTING ELEMENT AND/OR METHOD OF FIRE OF THE ADJUSTING ELEMENT (if applicable). Indicates the weapon(s) that will adjust. Normally, the base piece is selected and will fire one round in adjustment.

(1) Projectile in adjustment. This is the type of shell to be fired by the adjusting piece in an adjust-fire mission.

(2) Lot and charge in adjustment. This is the ammunition lot (for the shell and propellant) and the charge to be fired by the adjusting piece in an adjust-fire mission.

(3) Fuze in adjustment. This is the type of fuze to be fired by the adjusting piece in an adjust-fire mission.

c. BASIS FOR CORRECTIONS. This element dictates how data will be determined. Normally, the fastest method is designated.

d. DISTRIBUTION. This element describes the pattern of bursts (sheaf) in or around the target area. The assumed sheaf is a parallel sheaf, which resembles the arrangement of the pieces in the firing position. The sheaf computed may vary from the assumed sheaf on the basis of the number of howitzers available, target size, attitude, and description received from the observer (obsr). If the FDO desires a sheaf other than the assumed sheaf, he will announce it here.

e. SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS. This element is any method of control or coordinating instructions deemed appropriate by the FDO.

f. METHOD OF FIRE FOR EFFECT. This element indicates the number of rounds in the fire for effect phase of a mission. This element will always be announced by the FDO.

g. PROJECTILE IN EFFECT. This element is the projectile to be freed in effect.

h. AMMUNITION LOT AND CHARGE I/E. This element is the ammunition lot(s) and charge used in fire for effect.

i. FUZE I/E. This element is the fuze to be fired in effect.

j. TARGET NUMBER. This element is the specific target number assigned to a fire mission.

5-4. Battery or Platoon Fire Orders

The guidance in Table 5-1 will be used in issuing the fire order.

5-5. Fire Order Standing Operating Procedures

a. In most cases, a particular element of the fire order may remain the same from one mission to the next. On the basis of the tactical situation, type and amount of ammunition available, and commander's guidance, the FDO establishes an SOP for each element, which should be displayed in the FDC. When the FDO does not address an element in his fire order, the standard for that element will apply. The FDO need only announce what has changed from the standard. However, the method of fire for effect must be announced.

b. The FDO must ensure that the fire order is clear, concise, and in the proper format. The fire order format is designed to disseminate information clearly and rapidly with minimal discussion. It is impossible to provide a textbook solution for every conceivable situation, but a combination of technical knowledge and common sense should be enough to avoid confusion. It is better, if any confusion exists, to be redundant rather than too brief.

c. The use of a good SOP to clarify certain missions is essential. Immediate suppression, immediate smoke, illumination (illum), and mixed shell missions (HE and WP, for instance), can be handled more responsively when governed by an SOP. For example, an FDO needs only to say IMMEDIATE SUPPRESSION to mean a platoon will fire two volleys of HE/variable time (VT).

d. The example below shows the fire order elements and the fire order SOP for a four-howitzer platoon. (See Figure 5-2.)

(See Figure 5-3, which shows all elements addressed in the previous example.

5-6. Battalion Fire Order

Battalion fire orders must be issued to mass the fires of the battalion on a single target. The battalion fire order differs from the battery or platoon fire order since all the units of the battalion may not be able to receive the call for fire. The battalion fire order must be able to convey all information to cause the units to engage the target. A battalion fire order (Figure 5-4) follows the same basic format as a battery or platoon fire order except for the following:

a. WARNING ORDER. A warning order is issued to indicate the type of mission (AF or FFE) to be fired (not standardized).

b. UNIT TO FIRE. This is the unit to fire for effect. If the fire order originates at the battalion FDC and the FDO decides to fire the entire battalion, the element is announced as BATTALION. To designate less than the entire battalion, the individual elements are announced (for example, ALPHA and CHARLIE). When the designation of the unit to fire is transmitted outside the FDC, the unit call sign should be used.

c. UNIT TO ADJUST or METHOD OF FIRE OF THE ADJUSTING UNIT. This is the battery that conducts the adjustment. The battalion FDC will not try to direct a specific piece to adjust; however, the adjusting battery's base piece should be the adjusting piece. When the battalion fire order is transmitted, the last letter of the unit call sign will be used (can be standardized). The battalion may specify the number of rounds, projectile type, lot, charge, and fuze to use in the adjustment by the adjusting unit.

d. BASIS FOR CORRECTIONS. This is the same as the battery-or platoon-level fire order (can be standardized).

e. DISTRIBUTION or TARGET LOCATION. This is the FO's target location, to include target altitude, from the call for fire. If adjustment is necessary, the nonadjusting units will follow the adjustment and fire for effect on the adjusted grid. In adjust-fire missions, the battalion FDO may direct the adjusting unit to transmit the replot location and altitude to the battalion FDC after the completion of the adjustment. The battalion FDC may choose to segment the target, sending aimpoints to the units of the battalion, before fire for effect or direct the units to mass on the adjusted grid by sending the adjusted or replot grid (not standardized).

NOTE: The remaining elements of the battalion fire order are similar to the battery or platoon fire order except for standards.

f. SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS. This element can be standardized.

g. METHOD OF FIRE FOR EFFECT. This element is not standardized.

h. PROJECTILE I/E. This element can be standardized.

i. AMMUNITION LOT AND CHARGE I/E. This element can be standardized; however, normally the battery or platoon FDO will select it.

j. FUZE I/E. This element can be standardized.

k. TARGET NUMBER. This element is not standardized.

5-7. Massing of Fires

a. Massing. What does an artilleryman mean when he uses the word massing? By definition, it means simultaneous execution of two or more firing elements to achieve maximum effects on a critical target. The 3 x 8 battery bringing its two platoons to bear on a single target, a battalion massing on one point, and even a division artillery (div arty) or corps artillery commander bringing all his battalions onto a single target are all examples of massing. Regardless of the level of command, certain fundamental requirements must be met for two or more units to engage targets effectively together.

(1) The first requirement for massing is that all firing units must be on a common location and azimuth system; that is, common survey. This includes all platoons, radars, met stations, and observers. The survey control should extend into the target area as well.

(2) The second requirement is accurate MV information for each weapon. Manual corrections for MVVs will occur during concurrent and subsequent met procedures and through determining TGPCs with the M17 plotting board.

(3) The third requirement is valid met corrections considered by each of the firing platoons. This includes the met message valid for the firing platoon, propellent temperature, projectile weight, vertical interval, and corrections for earth rotation.

(4) The final requirement is accurate location. This is the reason the target-locating assets must be on common survey with the firing units. Ensure the target location determined by the observer is the same location plotted by the FDC.

(5) If the target is accurately located and the first three requirements are satisfied, then you can mass without having to adjust each unit onto the target. However, if it is an adjust-fire mission, the adjusting unit must determine the accurate target location and then announce it to the other units. To determine the accurate target location, the adjusting FDC must perform replot procedures discussed in Appendix D. The FDC must then announce the replot grid. The controlling FDC is responsible for the fire order and control of the mission.

b. Control of Battalion Mass Missions.

(1) When massing the fires of more than one battery either firing for effect or adjusting, AT MY COMMAND, TIME ON TARGET, or WHEN READY can be used. The most effective technique is TIME ON TARGET, which achieves the greatest surprise to the enemy.

(2) Control of FFE mass missions on stationary targets can best be affected by using TOT techniques. Accurate time coordination is essential to ensure the simultaneous impact of all initial rounds; lengthy countdowns are unnecessary.

(a) The TOT may be announced as a specific time (for example, TOT 0915). The battalion would announce a time check to synchronize the units designated to fire. This is done by using the following procedure:

  • The battalion FDC will announce the time (for example, AT MY MARK THE TIME WILL BE 0908).
  • The battalion FDC will give a short countdown starting 5 seconds before the mark (for example, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, MARK).
  • Each FDC would start its clock at MARK. From that moment, each FDC would control its own firing.
  • Each FDC would respond to the battalion FDC with ROGER OUT if they received a good mark.
  • If a good mark was not received, the unit FDC will request a new mark and the previous four steps will be done again.

(b) Another technique to execute a TOT is to specify the amount of time before it is to occur (for example, TOT 5 MINUTES FROM MY MARK). Each FDC would start its stopwatch at MARK. From that moment, each FDC would control its own firing.

(c) The preferred technique is the short countdown TOT (for example, TOT 40 SECONDS FROM MY MARK). The short countdown allows the FDO to decrease the amount of time between receiving a call for fire and massing on the target. The FDO will announce as part of the special instructions in his fire order SHORT COUNT TOT FOLLOWS. This alerts the firing units that the mission is AT MY COMMAND and that they will report READY, TOF to the battalion FDC. The battalion FDO will add 10 seconds (reaction time) to the longest time of flight reported. If the longest TOF is 30 seconds, he will announce TOT 40 SECONDS FROM MY MARK, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 MARK. The firing units will quickly subtract their TOF from the number of seconds the battalion FDO announced. The result is the number of seconds after MARK until they command FIRE.

(3) Control of an FFE mass mission on moving targets is best achieved by using AT MY COMMAND or WHEN READY. The time consumed during a TOT countdown may result in the rounds missing the target.

(a) AT MY COMMAND. All units will fire at the same time. The battalion FDO will select this technique if he is willing to accept some loss of surprise caused by varying times of flight to get the rounds on the target quickly. This technique is particularly effective when the unit's times of flight as reported by each FDC are similar.

(b) WHEN READY. Unless otherwise specified, each battery will fire when ready. This technique is used more often with adjust-fire missions (particularly those with lengthy adjustment phases) than with fire-for-effect missions. (When surprise has been lost, the difference in reaction times and times of flight between units is less significant.)

(4) Control of the FFE phase in an adjust-fire mass mission can be achieved by the same means as an FFE mass mission.

(a) TIME ON TARGET. If the observer is able to enter the FFE phase with one correction and he judges that the target has not been warned, a TIME ON TARGET (paragraph (2) above) may be used to control time of firing in effect. If the battalion FDO decides a TOT is unsuitable (for example, loss of time outweighs simultaneous impacting of all initial FFE rounds), he will direct use of AT MY COMMAND or WHEN READY. It is rare, however, that a target would not be warned during adjustment. Therefore, TOT to control time of firing in effect after adjustment is not normally used.

(b) AT MY COMMAND. The considerations for the selection of this technique are the same as in paragraph (3)(a) above. In addition, it is useful if the observer is able to enter the FFE phase with a large correction.

(c) WHEN READY. In most adjust-fire mass missions, no control of time of firing in effect will be used. Since most targets would be warned during adjustment, the battalion FDO would allow units to fire when ready.

c. Examples of Battalion Fire Orders. Examples of battalion fire orders are shown below.

Section II

Message to Observer

This section implements STANAG 2934, Chapter 5, and QSTAG 246.

After the FDC receives the call for fire, the FDO analyzes the target. If the target is to be attacked the FDO issues the fire order as his decision on how the target will be attacked. The observer is informed of this decision through the message to observer.

5-8. Description

The message to observer consists of four elements and is composed by the RATELO.

a. Units to Fire. The first element is the unit(s) that will fire the mission. It is always announced. If a battalion is firing in effect with one battery or platoon adjusting, the MTO will designate the FFE unit (battalion) and the adjusting unit (battery or platoon). The units to fire are identified by their radio call signs, using long call signs, short call signs, or the first letter of the short call sign. Some examples are listed below.

b. Changes or Additions to the Call for Fire. The second element of the MTO allows the FDC to inform the observer of changes and/or additions made by the FDO to the call for fire. If high-angle fire is to be used, HIGH ANGLE must be included in the MTO if the observer did not request it. The following examples use the previously stated call signs.

c. Number of Rounds. The third element is the number of volleys in fire for effect. The number of rounds to be fired in effect is always announced. The following example uses the previously stated call signs and change to the call for fire.

d. Target Number. The last element is the target number assigned to the mission for reference purposes, it is always announced. This is done to avoid confusion if multiple missions are being fired or if more than one observer is operating on the radio net. Target numbers are used in sequential order based on the units target block. The following example uses the previously stated call signs, change(s) to the call for fire, and number of rounds.

5-9. Additional Information

The following additional information may be announced with or after the message to observer.

a. Probable Error in Range. If the probable error in range for an area fire mission is equal to or greater than 38 meters, the FDC will inform the observer. For precision fire, the FDC will inform the observer if the probable error in range is equal to or greater than 25 meters. The actual value is not announced. For example, the RATELO would announce PROBABLE ERROR IN RANGE GREATER THAN 38 METERS.

b. Angle T. Angle T is sent to the observer when it is equal to or greater than 500 mils or if the observer requests it. It is announced to the nearest 100 mils. For example, if angle T is 580 mils, it is expressed and announced as ANGLE T 600.

c. Pulse Repetition Frequency Code. The pulse repetition frequency (PRF) code for a Copperhead mission is transmitted in voice operations; for example, the RATELO will announce PRF CODE 241. The range and direction of approach (left or right of the observer-target line) are needed to orient the footprint.

d. Time of Flight. Time of flight (TOF) is announced to the nearest whole second. It is announced to observers when targets are engaged with Copperhead, when moving targets are engaged, when conducting high-angle missions, when using an aerial observer, or when requested by the observer. For example, the RATELO would announce TIME OF FLIGHT 34 SECONDS.

e. Splash. Splash informs the observer that the round(s) fired will impact in 5 seconds. It must be sent to aerial observers and during high-angle fire missions. It can also be sent at the observer's request.

f. Shot and Rounds Complete. SHOT is announced to the observer to report when a round has been fired. Rounds complete is announced to the observer when all rounds for a particular mission have been fired. During an adjust-fire mission SHOT is announced after each round. Once the FFE phase is initiated, SHOT is announced only on the initial round. Once all rounds have been fired, rounds complete is announced to the observer. For an FFE mission, SHOT is announced only on the initial round; once all rounds have been fired, rounds complete is announced to the observer.

Section III

Fire Commands

Fire commands are used by the FDC to give the howitzer sections all the information needed to conduct a fire mission. Initial fire commands include all elements needed for orienting, loading, and firing the howitzer. Subsequent fire commands include only those elements that have changed from the previous command(s), except quadrant elevation. Quadrant elevation is announced in every set of fire commands and allows the howitzer section to fire if in a WR status.

5-10. Fire Command Elements

a. The elements of fire commands are always announced in the same sequence (Table 5-2). This saves time and eliminates confusion; each member of the howitzer section knows the sequence and should be ready for the next command.

b. Certain elements of the fire commands may be standardized. Once the standards are established and announced to the howitzer sections, the standard (std) elements will not be announced. Quadrant elevation may never be standardized. It is announced in-each set of fire commands.

5-11. Battery or Platoon Fire Commands

The procedures and sequence for announcing fire commands are in Table 5-3; all other fire commands are in Table 5-4.

5-12. Examples of Fire Commands

a. Following is an example of an adjust-fire mission without fire command standards applied for a four-howitzer platoon.

b. Following is an example of an FFE mission without fire command standards applied.

5-13. Standardizing Elements of the Fire Commands.

Certain elements of the fire commands may be standardized after the tactical situation, weapon and personnel capabilities, ammunition status, and enemy counterfire threat have been considered. As shown in Table 5-2, the following elements of the fire commands may be designated as standard: pieces to fire, method of fire, projectile, ammunition lot, and fuze. Only one set of standards can be in effect at any particular time. Once standards are placed in effect, the unit will fire the standard data unless the fire commands specify something different.

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